Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Books

Only 89 books this year. Perhaps I'll get myself back on pace in 2016.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dead Wrong, by Richard Phillips

This is a sequel to Mr. Phillip's enjoyable "Once Dead." In the first book, our hero, Gregory, is an ex-CIA agent who was saved by an alien force that goes on to inhabit his mind. In this one, Jack has to rescue an prisoner in South America and prevent an ancient alien artifact from falling into the wrong hands (which is to say anyone's hands). Meanwhile a bunch of folks want him dead.

This is all good fun and an interesting story.

Dead Wrong (The Rho Agenda Inception)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Einstein Prophecy, by Robert Masello

Oh my.  Imagine a book set in Princeton NJ in 1944. Imagine Einstein making a critical last minute design fix to Oppenheimer's work on the atom bomb.  Further imagine this having been orchestrated by demons to increase evil in the world.  Now, because what novel would want to avoid implausible sex at first sight love angles, imagine a brilliant and pretty part-Egyptian gal falling for the hero. Did I mention, oh my?

Now imagine that you're going to ignore all historical facts that might otherwise make this work of fiction more believable. Like: carbon dating techniques (not used in 1944) or the sacking of Cairo by Rommel (he didn't get to Cairo). But frankly the ridiculous love affair between the Egyptologist and the hero bothered me more than the demons. And that's saying quite a bit.

This will probably be made into a movie. A bad one.

The Einstein Prophecy

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

City of Echoes, by Robert Ellis

This is a well written, interesting, but quite depressing mystery novel.  Our hero is Detective Jones, in his first assignment on LAPD's Homicide squad. He finds pervasive corruption -- so much so that it seems everyone with whom he works is either in on it or flat out eager to kill him.

Much as I'd like to recommend it for the writing, I won't because of the tiresome and fatiguing depressing morass of a plot.

City of Echoes (Detective Matt Jones)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Omega Exile, by Stephen Arseneault

This is a very enjoyable sci-fi novel. Our hero is Knog, a detective who is caught up in the corruption of his time but who will not waver from his moral compass. Interestingly, Knog is not a human although many other of the book's characters are. Highly recommended.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Money Land, by RS Guthrie

I quite enjoyed this modern Western. When cartel -based crime shows up in a small Wyoming town, our hero, Sheriff Pruett handles things in an effectual, pragmatic fashion.  This is stripped down writing and very effective.

Money Land: A Hard Boiled Murder Mystery (A James Pruett Mystery Book 2)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Brain Web, by Douglas Richards

In this thriller, our hero Nick has brain implants that allow him to use the internet from his mind. Oh, he also can read the thoughts of others.  As the author says in his promotional blurb, "Based on actual research on thought-controlled Web surfing..." Okay, if you can get past that, read on.

It actually isn't bad!  The plot is interesting and the writing is good.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

In Her Name - First Contact, by Michael Hicks

This is a prequel to Mr. Hicks' "In Her Name" trilogy (the first novel of which is the excellent "Empire").  It is also an outstanding read. This book is the first of the prequel trilogy. And it is stand alone: you needn't have read any of the later books to enjoy this one, and if you have read them, you won't be disappointed by this either.

Mr. Hicks starts us off with an Earth -based survey ship discovering inhabited planets and scary alien creatures who massacre their victims. One survivor, Sato, tries to explain to the rest of Earth the nature of the threat facing their species.

I don't want to say more except that this book is at the same high standard of excellent writing and superlative pacing as his others.  If you're into sci-fi, I expect that you would really enjoy this series.

In Her Name First Contact

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson

I have liked Mr. Stephenson's novels. Cryptonomicon is one of my favorite books. In fact, this is the first of his books that I did not much enjoy.

All of Mr. Stephenson's books are lengthy.  The problem here is that only about 300 of the 880 pages in this book interested me.

The story line is good: the moon is broken apart and within a short time will rain destruction on the earth. It won't be safe on the surface for thousands of years. Add ons to the International Space Station become a hope for mankind's long term future. Drama ensues initially, and later in the book, as we fast forward 5,000 years, drama ensues again.

Overall too much detail about uninteresting things.

This could have been a multi-volume work, with shorter and more interesting discussion of mine- and submarine -based survivalists, along with the first parts of the story about the space station, and a dedicated book about the far future situation that better develops the human interest aspects of the political structure that evolved.

But it is what it is, and that is, the first of Mr. Stephenson's books that I actively recommend against reading.

Seveneves: A Novel

Friday, December 11, 2015

30 Pieces of Silver, by Carolyn McCray

Garbage.  Poorly written, uninteresting plot, nothing at all believable. And the author has the chutzpah to compare her novel with the DaVinci Code.  Oh please.  Just say no.

30 Pieces of Silver

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Amid the Shadows, by Michael Grumley

I'd thought this was a suspense thriller, but learned after a few chapters that it was also a para-normal novel as well. So if you like the idea of suspense novels with angels, demons, implausible bad guys and wonderful albeit secretive good guys, you might enjoy this one. It was, after all, well written and the plot was interesting. Still, I just wanted a good old fashioned good guy / gal saves the day book without the complicated angel angles.

Amid the Shadows

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Death in Sweden, by Kevin Wignall

This spy novel was more of a mystery tale, albeit with more violence than one might expect.  The hero, Dan, used to work for the CIA and now freelances by finding fugitives. He gets caught up in trying to figure out the background of a man who died in Sweden saving a young girl. The story is quite interesting.

A Death in Sweden

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Patriot & Assassin, by Robert Cook

Why did I bother reading this book? A formulaic novel isn't necessarily a poor one unless the level of plot and character development are as immaturely formulated as is the case here.

Why waste my time with more words about this book? The bad guys are really bad, with a really bad weapon, led by a really bad and, of course sexually perverted, evil genius. The hero is brilliant, rich, handsome, a former Marine, and has Bedouin family ties. The female interest is brilliant, rich, and beautiful. The writing is uninteresting, ill informed, and tedious.

Patriot and Assassin

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons

This novel ended up being excellent and compelling reading. It started out slowly for me: I like to ease into a new vocabulary and conceptual framework of a science fiction book and was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the first several pages. Had the book not been recommended by a friend, I'd probably have quit it within the first 25 pages.

I'm so pleased that I kept at it. Towards the end, I despaired at the slim number of pages left, not wanting the story to end too soon. As it did. Good news: there are three more volumes to the series.

Which isn't to say that I understand what is going on. I am clueless on several fronts.

The general notion is that there's a time travel structure on a place called Hyperion; there's also a murderous being (the Shrike).  There's an enemy race (that may not be deserving of being called the enemy), an AI structure, and a multi-world government of uncertain morality.

Seven travelers are called to a pilgrimage to Hyperion to engage with the Shrike. En route, six of them tell their life stories. That is the bulk of this book.

Mr. Simmons indicates a sometimes annoying fondness for the poet Keats. (Not coincidentally, I suppose, Hyperion is the name of an unfinished poem in Keats' collection, "Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems." Sadly, I'm a barbarian who doesn't appreciate poetry.

Things that confuse me: I don't quite understand the meanings of the many poems (both Keats' as well as Mr. Simmons'). (But that's certainly on me and not Mr. Simmons.) I don't understand what the Shrike is, or why. I don't understand the AI and its context in the universe that Mr. Simmons describes. I don't understand why many things happened or didn't happen. And yet, I really enjoyed this novel. Go figure.

I guess I'll have a shot at understanding as I read through the subsequent volumes. Meanwhile, thanks for the recommendation Jon!

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos)